This ABC play dough activity is a fun way to build hand strength with letters of the alphabet. This Fine Motor Play Dough Alphabet activity combined a couple of our favorite things: Creative Play Dough ideas and Fine Motor Skills. We used a handful of foam alphabet stickers that we had in the house and store bought play dough to make letters that we used in spelling words, letter identification, and alphabetical ordering. And our play dough fun rating was 26 letters long!
ABC Play Dough Activity
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Fine Motor Skills and Play Dough
Every Occupational Therapist knows the benefits of play dough is so huge that they recommend it as a top-rated tool for fine motor development. We’ve shared a ton of fine motor activities using play dough and I absolutely love to play with play dough with my kids for it’s use in fine motor skill development and hand strengthening.
Play dough is perfect for refining skills like intrinsic muscles strength, finger isolation, tripod grasp development, thumb opposition, opening up the web space, bilateral hand coordination, and more. With this activity, we specifically hit developing the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands.
Intrinsic muscle strength and play dough
So, what is intrinsic muscle strength? There are seventeen muscles in the hand that are responsible for fine motor skills and precision grasp, among other things like moving the thumb and fingers. There are different groups of intrinsic muscles and they allow us to grasp items in a functional way. The muscles of the hands work in conjunction with the muscles that originate in the forearm. These extrinsic muscles end in your hand.
For this activity, we used different colors of play dough and created small round balls of dough. I asked my kids (and a niece and nephew who were over for the day) to roll small, dime-sized balls using just their thumb and fingers.
Rolling small balls of this size uses the intrinsic muscles that are responsible for moving the thumb (thenar muscles) and the muscles that bend the fingers at the knuckle (lumbricals). Also needed for a task like this are the palmer interossi muscles that work to move the fingers in a flexed position toward the thumb.
So, when a child is rolling a small ball of dough, with their thumb and fingers, they are working on strengthening the muscles that a child uses to write and color with a pencil or crayon.
Weakness in Writing the ABC’s
Sometimes kids complain of their hand hurting when coloring or you might see them switch crayons very often when coloring.
These are signs of a weakness of hand strength. Other signs of intrinsic muscle weakness are a weak grasp on the pencil or writing very lightly with a pencil.
After we rolled all of the play dough balls, we used our foam letter stickers to press letters into the Play-Doh. Pressing the letters with an extended finger (like in the picture) is a great way to work on finger isolation. It is important to note that using the finger in an extended “pointer” uses the extrinsic muscles that originate in the forearm.
I shared more about finger isolation here.
We used these letters to practice spelling words with my second grader, identify sight words for my Kindergartner, practice letter identification and letter order with my preschooler, and practice not eating play dough with my toddler 😉
It was a fun day had by all!
How will you use these letters to learn and play?